July 15, 2018


Turkey and the coup attempt: How it changed the country's behaviour (Rabia Iclal, Sunday 15 July 2018, Middle East Eye)

The July 2016 coup bid, carried out, the government says, by supporters of exiled Fethullah Gulen, was the bloodiest in modern Turkish history. Social observers and analysts report that the anger and fear it generated still permeate Turkish society two years later.

Nurullah Ardıc, an associate professor of sociology at Istanbul Sehir University, said that while the defeat of the coup had strengthened social bonds, it had also weakened the prestige of the military, police, religious groups and even NGOs.

According to a survey on social cohesion in Turkey conducted by the Istanbul Policy Centre (IPC), an independent research policy institute at Sabanci University, between January and February 2018, 47 percent of Turks were happy about the measures taken by the government to restructure the state after 15 July, against 21 per cent who were not.

Pinar Akpinar, an academic at the centre, said: "One cannot really speak of an overall 'change' of society but, rather, the alleviation of fears."

She said the coup had touched on several existential fears of Turks, including Sèvres syndrome, named after the post-First World War treaty which abolished and then divided the Ottoman Empire.

That fear, Akpinar said, meant that "people from very different segments of society united under a perceived threat of their country being carved up".

But that moment of unity, she said, was very short-lived. "Eventually, Turkish politics went back to its usual agenda of polarisation."

Like Alkilic, Adviye Gul, 17, took to the street on the night of the attempted coup, along with four other members of her family. She headed for Istanbul's Sarachane district, where she and hundreds of others gathered outside the municipality building to prevent it being taken over by coup plotters.

"We went out to the streets, praying," she said. "We stood against the traitors and occupiers, with bare hands and the love of our land.

"Normally, I'm a very young person with dreams for the future, and I wouldn't risk my life. But, that day, my god had completely taken the fear from us." 

Eventually, forces who backed the coup opened fire on the crowd: Gul was hit in the arms and remained in a critical condition for four days.

Before the coup she had always been interested in politics. But now she has taken more of an interest and watches the news more frequently.

"I am now awake to the facts about our history and the dangers we face today. As a young Turk, I'm now more hopeful and confident about my future."

As news of the coup reached the wider world, the response from the West was slow in coming, with many governments lukewarm in their support for Erdogan.

Gurkan Zengin, formerly news director of Al Jazeera Turk, who wrote Kusatma (Siege) about the coup attempt, said that events in July 2016 woke Turkish society to the "level of danger the Gulen movement poses to Turkish society".

He said that the general perception was that the US wanted to depose Erdogan and his regional policies by using Gulenist supporters.

"No one in Turkey can believe that any military coup can occur in a Nato country without approval from the Pentagon or another US security and intelligence apparatus."

That sense, academics believe, was also at play on 24 June 2018, when Turkey held its first presidential and parliamentary election since the attempted coup, despite the two events being almost two years apart.

Ali Yasar Saribay, political sociologist at Uludag University, said: "It can be safely concluded that 15 July had a decisive influence on the 24 June election results, meaning that Erdogan was supported by the electorate, against the West."

He said that several of the political, legal and economic measures that Erdogan's ruling AK Party had taken after 15 July were not fully backed by the West.

"The support in the election was not only a show of favour for Erdogan, but a political reaction against the Western world fuelled by instinctive preservation of the state. It's difficult to understand this without taking into consideration the sensitive points of the state-society relations in Turkey historically."

Posted by at July 15, 2018 11:16 AM